The Australian mining firm Base Titanium has emphasized that the company is closing for lack of mineral resources and not because a section of the community opposed the exploration exercise.
The company’s External Affairs General Manager Simon Wall said the exploration work was done successfully in the hope of expanding mining life.
He, however, said intensive study was conducted, but the minerals found proved not to be economically viable.
He said both the grade and volume were low and hence could not sustain mining operations.
“Let it be clear, the decision of closing is clearly technical and is not an outcome of the community not consenting to explorations,” he said.
He said the depletion of the minerals was projected for a very long time and everyone knew at one point the company might shut down.
Wall said the exploration in Kwale East adjacent to the main mining site was their only hope that could at least push the mining operations for more years.
The company drilled about 1200 holes across the seven villages to generate significant geological information.
Wall said the geological results revealed that mineral ore bodies won’t support Base investments.
He said for a successful mining the ore body should be long and deep and the concentration of minerals higher compared to what was discovered.
Wall said the current tailing storage facility (TFS) is expected to be full by next year.
TFS is a reservoir that stores mine tailings which are waste that comes from the processing of mined ore.
Wall said even if the company decides to mine the little discovered minerals, the company won’t have a place to deposit the waste which is mostly clay.
He said building additional TFS is very expensive and unfortunately the new minerals can’t sustain the operations.
“All these challenges could be overcome but the worldwide price of the commodity is decreasing daily. For effective mining the minerals must be in plenty which is not the case here,” he said.
Base started operations in 2013 harvesting high-value mineral assemblage rich in rutile, ilmenite and zircon.
In the quest to prolong mining life, the Australian firm had earlier applied for several prospecting licences in Lamu, Tana River and within Kwale.
The licenses were applied in 2018 and 2019 before the government imposed the moratorium.
Recently, the cabinet partially lifted the moratorium.
However, Wall said that even if the licences are approved they won’t change the fate of the mining expiring period.
“There are currently eight prospecting licences in the system which is good news but they won’t solve our problem because the exploration programme takes up to five years to determine when there is a mining,” he said.
Wall said the company is focused on continuing with the rehabilitation process and fulfilling its objective of responsible mining.
He said after the mining life, Base will continue to exist but doing exploration in the hope of finding new mineral deposits across the country.
Wall said since there won’t be any income-generating activities, over 1500 employees will lose jobs and funding of a number of community programs like education scholarships and Community Development Agreement Committees will come to an end.